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10 Clever and Confusing Flowcharts

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It's been almost a year since I shared my ever-growing collection of helpful and not-so-helpful flowcharts found on the internet. The list has grown, and some of the latest flowcharts explain everything from how to date your cousin to picking up food from the floor.

1. Should I Work for Free?

This may sound like a silly question, but sooner or later, each of us will confront a situation in which we are asked to provide free labor, time, or talent. Don't dismiss the question; there may be intangible rewards to consider. This handy chart by Jessica Hische starts in the middle (shown here) and leads you through many possibilities before helping you decide. Bonus: you can select this flow chart in different languages and even the original "sailor-mouth" version.

2. Na

Song lyrics lend themselves well to flow charts. Leave it to Randall Munroe to come up with a multi-use flow chart. This one at xkcd charts several songs at once. Of course, it ultimately highlights the importance of a melody.

3. Should You Eat Dropped Food?

You dropped food on the floor. Should you eat it? Audrey Fukuman and Andy Wright constructed a flowchart with their advice. Whether you follow their advice is up to you.

4. Understanding the Web

Since you are here, you probably know how to get around the internet. However, there exists a flowchart designed for explaining it to those who don't: specifically, to a 19th century street urchin, as depicted in the works of Charles Dickens. Doogie Horner produced this chart for his book Everything Explained Through Flowcharts. The flowchart does not so much explain the internet as it explains the importance of relating to your student's background and level of understanding when explaining anything.

5. Forgetfulness

What do you do when you're talking to someone you know, but you can't recall his name? This tongue-in-cheek flowchart from MontyGeer at College Humor gives you some strategies to try out, which ultimately lead to other results besides remembering your friend's name.

6. Can We Date?

One person is not asking the other person to date here. The question concerns the appropriateness of the potential relationship. The helpful flowchart by Jennifer Daniel begins with three reasons you might ask such a question: do the two of you have a professional relationship? Are you related by some kind of kinship? And then there's the "other" category which is just plain weird. Only a few of the many scenarios are shown here. You will have to enlarge the chart to follow any of these convoluted decisions.

7. Dear Happy Internet Traveler

Orange Coat Web Design has such a popular error page that they eventually felt obligated to make it available even where there is no error. A couple of suggestions for what to do is standard on a 404 page, but sympathetic text on a geeky flowchart goes a long way toward deflecting anger over the error. Only a portion of the chart is shown here.

8. What Would Richard Feynman Do?

This flowchart explains physicist Richard Feynman in the most simplistic terms possible. It was produced by Wellington Grey, who has deleted his original posts from the internet without explanation. And that's a pity.

9. Learning to Cook

Learning to prepare food is a lifelong process, with stops and starts depending on your ambition and confidence level. This flowchart from xkcd is not advice; it's a schematic of what actually happens.

10. A Place to Pee

A decision no adult should need a flowchart for is where to relieve oneself. However, if there's one thing the internet has plenty of, it's charts we don't need. They can be entertaining, after all. This one was produced by Jeff Wysaski at Pleated Jeans. Only the beginning is shown here.

See more funny and/or useful flowcharts in these other mental_floss posts:
Run Your Life with Flowcharts!
Fun with Flowcharts
7 Geeky Flowcharts
7 Brilliant and/or Baffling Flowcharts
7 Flowcharts for Fun
10 Funny Flowcharts

9 Flowcharts to Help You Navigate the Christmas Season

Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year, and all the other winter holidays are times of tradition, when we continue to celebrate in the manner of years past. But some modern situations call for decisions that tradition doesn’t cover. That’s why we have flowcharts! Here are some that pertain to the unique conundrums that arise this time of year.

1. WHO TO VISIT FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Will you be spending Christmas with your parents or your in-laws? This is a decision you should make with your significant other, but it doesn't have to turn into a tug-of-war. Just produce this flowchart from She Knows to bolster your reasons for visiting the family with the least drama.

2. WHO TO BUY CHRISTMAS GIFTS FOR

The holidays would certainly be less stressful if we were to do away with the tradition of buying gifts for adults (other than maybe homemade food or a nice box of candy). But social obligations live on. Still, you don’t have to buy everyone a gift, especially when you're on a limited budget. Read the rest of this flowchart from College Humor, which will help you make your decision.   

3. SHOULD YOU GET A GIFT FOR SOMEONE YOU ARE SEEING?

That may be a simple question, but the answer might be quite complicated. A flowchart from The Date Report can help you to consider how far along the relationship is and whether a Christmas gift would be proper at this time or not.  

4. GIFT SUGGESTIONS FOR YOURSELF

When a close family member asks you what you want for Christmas, it’s OK to be honest. Just keep in mind that you're more likely to get your wish fulfilled if you keep it within the giver’s budget. This flowchart from 1500 Days to Freedom illustrates that well. (A second flowchart in the same post explains the recurring nightmare of intergenerational conflict in his/her family—something we're all likely familiar with.)  

5. SHOPPING FOR GIFTS

Major retailers often release flowcharts to help you decide what to give people for Christmas, which all end in gifts they sell. This one, targeted to men, is from the Milwaukee Brewers. The entire chart is huge. The flowchart is complicated, but no matter who you're shopping for, the perfect gift is a Holiday 4-Pack. I would have at least suggested splurging on a whole 6-pack.

6. SIMPLE HOLIDAY SMARTPHONE ETIQUETTE

Most of the time, your phone is attached to your hand—but when you're with the family for holiday togetherness, you're sure to get a few snarky comments from relatives if you're using it all the time. Still, there are some situations that make phone use appropriate, so Shane Snow created a flowchart to help you navigate each possible scenario.  

7. CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

You should have your Christmas lights up by now. Why don’t you? Are they not working? Are you putting off the annual testing regimen? Terry Ritter put up an entire website to help you troubleshoot Christmas lights 10 years ago. His flowcharts will take you through the process of testing your lights before you hang them. Or you can simplify things by simply plugging them in and throwing away the strings that don’t work.

8. WHICH CHRISTMAS MOVIE TO WATCH

There are an awful lot of classic Christmas movies—some you may have even forgotten about. There’s one to fit your interests for every situation and every mood. You can determine which movie fits yours with this handy chart from College Humor. See the rest of the chart to select your movie.

9. WHAT TO DO ON CHRISTMAS EVE

Let's wrap up Christmas with a flowchart that’s been around forever, but is still enjoyable. After all, who wants to miss a step that may lead to seeing a jolly old elf, so you can laugh when you see him in spite of yourself? If you have trouble reading it, see a larger version here.

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9 Flowcharts for Maximum Non-Productivity
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Flowcharts long ago escaped the world of engineering and have run rampant across all topics. The best ones are either useful or funny, and sometimes they can be both. Here’s a roundup of flowcharts that may help you out or at least entertain you for a while. But the first, and most important question is:

1. Do You Like Flowcharts?

Randall Munroe at xkcd presents us with a flowchart to determine what kind of chart or graph you prefer. And he then attempts to give you what you want, in one way or another. But as you and I know, there’s no pleasing some people. The arrow at the bottom points to the “random” button at the website. Which ought to please anyone.

2. Should You Buy an Apple Watch?

No, this isn’t an ad from Apple, because if it were, all decision paths would flow toward “yes,” except the one about having no money. This is from Funny or Die, where you can see the full chart.

3. Is It Paleo?

The Paleo Diet Flowchart will help you recognize foods you can eat on the Paleo Diet. I’ve probably learned more about that diet from this flowchart than from any other source, since I’m not all that interested in diets outside of what my kids eat. It was drawn by Cole Bradburn, based on an earlier flowchart by Nicole Voelzke that you can see at the same link.

4. Should You Put Coffee In Your Face Right Now?

Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal made a flowchart for the website I Love Coffee. It makes the simple decision of whether to have a cup of coffee into a convoluted quiz involving tigers, bran muffins, and revolution. See the rest of it here. Me? Unless it’s bedtime, I just skip to “Yes.” Tea is for bedtime.

5. How to Talk About the Economy

Zach Weiner at Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal created a flowchart about how to address the subject of the economy, if you are a politician, in which case it matters, or a media personality, in which case it only matters how you spin it.  

6. How to Not Be a Bullying Mob

Internet shaming is a hot topic these days. In the quest for justice over those who do are exposed on the internet as doing something offensive or mean, the backlash can be exponentially worse. By joining in on the pile-on, you may find yourself being part of the bullying experience yourself. A flowchart by Andrea Phillips can help you to stop and think before you comment or take some other action against a person you don’t know. This illustration is only a portion of the full chart, which you can enlarge at the link.

7. Should You Do the Dishes?

If you were to ask me, that’s an easy question to answer. I’m a mom. The answer is “Yes!” But this flowchart is from College Humor, so it is not aimed at me, but at young adults who moved away from their families in order to avoid doing dishes. Or attend college, but that’s splitting hairs. If there’s any chance in hell you can avoid the dishes for a while longer, you will. The rest of this tall flowchart is at the highlighted link.  

8. Hey Jude

Sarah Emerson used a flowchart not to make a decision, but to explore the structure of the song “Hey Jude.” It works elegantly well, especially with the infinite loop at the end, and is also available as an art print

9. Putting It Off Until Later

The Procrastination Flowchart is at least seven years old, and the original is impossible to find, as various cited sources no longer exist. Yet we still procrastinate. What you see here is just the starting point, which is in the middle of the chart, because there are so many paths to procrastination that they wander all around the chart. By the time you finish with the entire chart, the deadline you are avoiding will be passed.

Make the rest of the decisions in your life with the help of other flowcharts we've posted. And see more graph humor of all kinds. 

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